Report on Global Change Consultation at Vancouver Monthly Meeting

Responses to Query 1

Firstly, population increase has been part of global change – the population has increased by 2 billion people during my lifetime. There has been mass migration to urban areas, and in my community this has meant loss of agricultural land which is being gobbled up by urban development.

Logging is having an impact on my spirit, and also on air quality and water.

In my community there is immense pressure by developers to urbanize agricultural land. Densification might have some good effects in terms of creating a demand for public transit and retention of agricultural land, but it also means trees coming down. There is a road cutting through farmland to truck goods from China to feed our consumerism.

The cost of groceries is rising and will get worse in the near future. The pine-beetle devastation of forests in the interior of BC is a direct result of global warming, even more severe than logging. We in our urban environment are mostly protected from the results of global climate change.

There has been a lack of foresight by developers and municipalities in building housing on farmland and agricultural reserves, rather than focusing on densification in already existing communities. This has also caused degradation of our water systems and oceans.

We are all interconnected – on the same arc. Our footprint in the developed world far exceeds our fair share. There is a disproportionate effect on peoples around the world of inefficient land use and urban sprawl and transportation.

I am only two generations from farmers and farming communities. I feel the loss of community-based ways of life.

I see the problem being what we are not aware of, our massive ignorance, our ecological illiteracy, the failure of our institutions. On the positive side are transition communities, like Village Vancouver which is organizing on a local level to find solutions. The internet communication system is a positive change. Technology is neutral if we have the sense to use it wisely.

I see positive changes in Vancouver – an improved public transit system, making it possible to do without a car; community gardens. We are buffered here.

One ride on a jet from London to Rio de Janeiro is equivalent to one person’s fair share of energy for their lifetime. We don’t understand how destructive airplane travel is; it causes permanent damage to the atmosphere, beyond the massive use of carbon fuel. This creates a dilemma for us who have families living overseas or long distances away, and who are aware of the true cost.

Transportation of food and other stuff is problematic. The 100-mile diet cuts this down dramatically, but there is too much “stuff”.

Friendlier fuel sources as a solution is part of a big process in which we’re pussy-footing around. We have created a Frankenstein monster – the corporations. It is our responsibility to convert them and move towards a cooperative economy, from a consumer society to a conserving society. The life of most manufactured goods is at odds with a sustainable economy. I feel angry every time I encounter a burned out light bulb or a broken down car – the products of built-in obsolescence.

The internet is creating a possibility of community, especially for isolated people, yet this high-tech equipment is at the cost of polluting/contaminating the places where they are made. There is too much exploitation and greed.

We have to change our way of thinking. Corporations are built upon a militaristic model and are supported by armies around the world.

Education of women leads to gender equality and will reduce population growth.

CO2 production is accelerating. This is a serious issue. We are depleting non-renewable and renewable resources, and have been ignoring this for four decades.

Responses to Query 2

There is a younger generation now studying the overarching economics. Citizens are ahead of governments. We have some progressive local governments and NGOs here. Air quality in the Lower Mainland has improved over the last 20 years due to public transit, higher standards for car emissions and general air care. There is willingness by municipalities to densify around public transit hubs.We have bike paths across three municipalities. But we need to be cautious – some changes that we think are for the better, on closer examination have serious problems – e.g. fluorescent light bulbs containing mercury.

I am using handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex, and washcloths instead of toilet paper.

Canada has done well in some environmental respects, for example recycling.

I am eating organic and locally grown food and organic or free-range meat (in small quantities). I think this is better for the earth and it supports responsible farming. I live in a co-housing community, which uses a smaller footprint. Twenty-two houses have been built on five city lots. We share resources and it is socially sustainable. I also feel called to activism – to participating in demonstrations and civil disobedience – to make our leaders pay attention.

We are changing our lighting – to LED lighting for the summer and to halogen lighting for the winter.
Communities (like co-housing) change our idea of what we need in terms of things and space, what is private and what can be shared.

I grew up living downtown, supporting and being supported by farming co-ops and car co-ops – community models for addressing environmental concerns. In this neighbourhood I realize how hard it is to create this kind of community without an infrastructure. I am engaged in activism to change the infrastructure and educate women towards greater gender equality.

When I was planning to buy a new car, I did a lot of research and discovered that the model I was investigating had batteries that in 10 years would contaminate the environment – this in order to make the car fuel-efficient. The raw materials for the batteries were mined in Canada, sent to Korea to make the parts, assembled in Japan and then returned to Canada. Natural gas and other natural fuels are better, but there is no infrastructure for it.

I do little things – use my car less, combining trips as much as possible. I keep the heat low in the house and wear a sweater. I knit socks out of wool scraps, and give them to others, so they too can keep their heat low. I buy food at local farmers markets when they’re open. I buy local when possible. I became aware that shopping is an antidote to distress, so have started walking instead.

With the Quakers, I have set up global warming cafes to discuss climate change. I became vegetarian five years ago. I have no car; use a co-op car when necessary, and bike and bus. I fly less. I contribute money to organizations working for social and environmental change.

The population issue is not so clear-cut – in poor countries or amongst poor populations people count on children for security. Rich countries can afford zero population growth but poor countries cannot. We need to do more education around environmental and other issues.

Natural (bio) fuels are patented by corporations. Caution.

We have to make choices – about fuels and lighting, and other things. Very little is black and white – there is a lot of grey. Everything has an impact.

We must develop our own environmental literacy and support alternatives for when the system crashes.

Monopolization of media and the news media is a concern. We must counter balance it.

(Only the first two queries were answered)